There are plenty of legitimate things to be afraid of; global warming, teenagers texting while driving, alcoholism, bed bugs, Snooki offering your kids meth. There are, however, plenty of fears that have little basis in reality. Aliens, for example, or ghosts. There are those worries that could technically come true, but statistically will not. For instance, planes crashing, poisonous spiders biting, and being kidnapped in your sleep.
I’m a jumpy person. I also have a big imagination. Despite my best efforts, this has led to a host of irrational fears. Here are my Top Ten. Happy Tuesday!
1. The Dark
This age old fear is a very obvious one. Darkness creates unknown space for our imaginations to create all sorts of fictional creatures. When I was in elementary school (and let’s be real—Middle and High school as well) and had to take the garbage out to the compost pile on dark, winter nights—I would be scared pantsless. My favorite trick was to sing JESUS LOVES ME really loud and run as fast as I could. That or I’d dump the garbage behind a nearby bush and wait in the garage for a few minutes. Anything to avoid what was certainly a predator lurking behind the apple trees.
Reality: There is no one lurking in the dark behind the apple trees, shower curtain, driver’s seat, or under your bed. Even if it looks like someone or something, it’s just a coat hanger or your cat or a misshapen pile of wash.
2. Winged Creatures
Birds and bats aren’t my friends. Flight is to their advantage and they make use of it by swooping at unsuspecting heads, trying to peck out my eyes, or getting caught in my hair. Chickens are no exception. They are tasty and I admit their kids are cute, but I’m not willing to have any sort of relationship. Their beady eyes read: unpredictable.
Reality: Bats and birds are (mostly) harmless and leave humans alone.
Bottom line, I should have never watched Twister at such an impressionable age. Since then, every time there has been the slightest mention of a tornado, I am searching for the nearest underground shelter and gathering my most precious people, pets, and photo albums. It doesn’t help that the parents forced me to go to sleep away camp the one year and week a tornado touched down at said camp, just missing the boy’s and girl’s tent area.
Reality: I should be much more worried about having a car accident. While Pennsylvania has had its bouts with twisters, the number per year is very low compared to the Midwest.
We’ve all been there, don’t deny it. You’re sitting on the pot, probably in the dark, and all of a sudden you think that maybe there could be something in there. A spider, a mouse, or worse—a monster.
Okay, so it’s entirely illogical and ridiculous–but there’s something about airing your derrière so close to a black open hole that can make even those most imaginationless person get the willies.
Reality: There is absolutely nothing in the potty that will grab your bum.
5. Being Followed
You are driving on the back roads on the way to a friend’s house when all of a sudden you realize the red car behind you has made the same 6 turns and is making no indication of stopping. Panic ensues and you purposely don’t turn into your destination’s driveway to avoid being slaughtered by the Scranton Strangler.
Reality: It is your friend’s grandma.
Muskrats, mice, groundhogs, possums, raccoons, and gerbils beware. I’m not afraid to exterminate you. I don’t like you on my counter, in the silverware drawer, up my pants, or even in a cage. Bunnies might also beware. You’re kind of cute, but also very close to looking like a big rat.
Reality: They are more scared of you than you are of them. Unless they have rabies; a valid excuse to scream, jump, run, maim, etc.
7. Sarah Palin
You’ve watched the news, seen the interviews, read the scuttlebutt. She’s a force to be reckoned with and is slowly polluting the minds of Americans with thoughts of a honkey-tonkin blow-your-face-off revolution. She’s also not that smart and wants to be in charge, a lethal combination. Is our country headed for an unnatural disaster via Queen P?
Reality: Sarah is quickly becoming a reality star more than a political star. Republicans and Tea Partiers alike would be foolish to choose her as a candidate. Ten years from now, we’ll laugh at her outdated prom hair and occasionally see her on VH1 specials like “Where are they now?”
8. Closed Spaces
This is a fairly common fear so I won’t go into the details of claustrophobia except to recount a recent experience in the heat of Haiti during a tropical thunderstorm this past summer.
It was 2am and the wind started to blow and the rain began to pour and so naturally Austin instructed that we must zip up the tent. This was not an unreasonable demand, the storm was quite severe. Yet I resisted quite passionately. Within seconds of breathing in the stagnant air of the closed tent, my heart began to race and I literally had a panic attack. Out of all the “fears” listed, this one is an actual phobia of mine and in that moment I thought—this is where I’m going to die. Luckily I discovered a way to lie down and unzip the tent just enough to stick my lips outside without letting too much water in. I remained in that position for over 3 hours and got very wet, but it was worth it.
Reality: Being stuck in an elevator, inside a tent, or even in a closed box for a few minutes (or even hours) will.not.kill.you. It’s just very uncomfortable.
If you’re terrified of these glass-eyed creatures of the deep, you’re not alone. The human fear of sharks is rooted in natural survival instinct. Jaws I, II, and III doesn’t help either. You could just stay out of the water, but swimming in the ocean is just too much fun. The worst is when you’re in the water and feel something slip by your leg. It’s not uncommon to hear someone scream due to a piece of seaweed or a sibling playing a trick.
Reality: You’ll be fine if you read precaution signs and don’t wade in the water with a gushing wound as live bait.
Many films and TV shows and even Broadway plays exploit the fear of masks, and I have fallen right into their trap. There is even a term for it, Maskaphobia of course. Ever since grade school, I have had reoccurring nightmares running from people in masks, mostly the Klu Klux Klan. Up until last year I refused to watch Oh Brother, Where Art Thou because I heard there was a scene with the white faced monsters in it (turns out it’s a great movie).
Again, masks play into the fear of the unknown. It’s no wonder they are outlawed in Virginia.
Reality: 99% of the time, people who are wearing masks are trick-or-treating or cold.